Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has completed the first long-distance flight of an airplane powered by a lead-free, renewable fuel.
Embry-Riddle is testing an environmentally friendly aviation fuel produced by Swift Enterprises in a bid to end its reliance on leaded aviation gas and to help pave the way for others in the general aviation community, university officials said. Engineers in the Eagle Flight Research Center at the Daytona Beach, Fla., campus have been testing the Swift fuel as a replacement for standard 100LL aviation gas for the last six months.
An Embry-Riddle test pilot flew a twin-engine Seminole aircraft on a 2,200-mile round trip from Daytona Beach to Oshkosh, Wis., where the plane drew crowds at AirVenture, which was held July 26-Aug. 1. The plane flew with Swift fuel in its left engine and 100LL in the right engine. Embry-Riddle was able to use the new fuel as a drop-in replacement for 100LL without having to modify the aircraft in any way to accommodate the new fuel.
The flight was like any other, says pilot Mikhael Ponso, except for “one unique thing – the engine with the Swift fuel had 10 to 15% less fuel consumption per volume than the other engine burning 100LL during the cross-country flight.”
The flight to Oshkosh followed the successful demonstration earlier this year at Sun ‘n-Fun at Lakeland, Fla. During this display, the aircraft flew in front of the crowd each day prior to the air show. On several days, the aircraft was flown with Erik Lindbergh, grandson of Charles Lindbergh, the first person to perform a solo New York-to-Paris crossing of the Atlantic in an airplane.
Lindbergh said, “Swift fuel performed perfectly on the three flights I took at Sun ‘n-Fun, and represents a viable and sustainable fuel for the future of general aviation.”
Embry-Riddle pilots previously tested the environmentally friendly fuel in the Seminole in standard flight operations, including climbs to 14,000 feet, steep turns, and midair engine shutdowns.
Three decades after the Clean Air Act banned leaded gas in cars, more than 200,000 general aviation aircraft still burn leaded fuel, which has been cited as a public health hazard. But momentum is building to find lead-free fuel alternatives for general aviation aircraft.
Small aircraft burn nearly 190 million gallons of aviation fuel a year, contributing 45% of the lead emissions in the nation’s air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Removing lead from airplane fuel has been technically challenging, because lead prevents detonation in airplane engines, which have much higher compression than car engines.
Embry-Riddle chose to investigate Swift fuel because the company’s non-leaded fuel has passed the FAA’s detonation test and gets more miles per gallon than current aviation fuel. The fuel is a simple binary fuel and can be synthesized from a variety of renewable biomass sources.
To learn more about the test flight and Embry-Riddle’s desire to transform its training aircraft into a “green fleet,” contact Dr. Richard “Pat” Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-226-6917.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, offers more than 30 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business, and Engineering. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Prescott, Ariz., and Daytona Beach, Fla., through the Worldwide Campus at more than 170 campus centers in the United States, Europe, Asia, Canada, and the Middle East, and through online learning. For more information: EmbryRiddle.edu.